Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Lie's The Thing

It is far easier to be honest with ourselves regarding the state of things, than for others to be honest to us about these same things. Expediency and politics often overwhelms reason and logic in public discourse, and we are led to believe one thing, a thing that is far removed from the truth of the matter. Far too many of us have given up challenging what we hear, content to believe that those who speak to us do so in earnest and without prevarication, which in our hearts we know not to be true. Seldom is the public speaker telling the whole story, for enlightenment would lead to questions, and questions would lead to inquiries, and inquiries would lead to a lack of answers or worse, an ever-complicated fabric of lies which would fray at the slightest pull.

It is even easier to lie when you do not have to be directly confronted with the substance of them, hurling them at great distances or through a medium which allows no direct feedback. Little or big, based on fact or total fiction, when you are isolated from your audience in the moment, they find it as easy to suspend their disbelief as they do at a play or in the movies. The talking heads chatter and the audience laps it up, assuring themselves that such people would never mislead them, placing blind faith  the moral rectitude of the speaker, when such rectitude may be a foreign idea, or easily subverted by ego and self-satisfaction.

Those who are at a great distance from the truth do not insulate as much as isolate themselves, putting their views in stark relief behind a backdrop of reality. The more egregious the lie, the more contrast there is, and a person who, on the surface, appears rational becomes quickly irrational to the mind's eye. But some, who have bought into the certitude the speaker evinces, despite the evidence of their eyes and ears, cast aside critical reason and assume the role of lackey or sycophant, willing to repeat the obfuscations as fact and rail against those who would question them. It is no longer debate, but playground antics, as the “did not, did to” arguments commence.

It is a simple truth that we are afraid; the thing we fear most is, strangely, the truth. We have spent so much time buying into the lies, that the truth seems a foreign and alien concept. Those who speak it are more often considered odd, at the fringes of society rather than part of the mainstream, or derided as hopelessly na├»ve. No problem or situation bears explanation through rationality; instead, wild fabrication is the order of the day, an overreaching beyond one's expertise or knowledge, a spinning of a yarn that seems to fit better to our preconceptions. We convince ourselves that vast conspiracies or unknown forces or mysterious powers manipulate us; even when the reality of something, proven beyond reasonable doubt, is set before us, we shrug it off as the wishful thinking of those who “don't know any better.”

It takes far less effort to simply believe the lie, than to apply logic and make our own determinations. Psychological studies of human behavior show that we will often cave easily to authority, even to the point of harming others, though we know it to be wrong. They show that we would rather go along with the group than stick to our own opinion, even when the group is obviously wrong. They show that in an emergency, we do not intervene because we are certain someone else will, absolving ourselves of responsibility. In short, we will do everything in our power to avoid making our own judgments, lest we look foolish; we will avoid action, where we think that to involve ourselves will cause us social harm, especially if we are wrong. We have become a society of gamblers, hedging our bets, refusing to challenge even the most egregious and obvious fraud, content that it is “for the best.”

This refusal to engage, to apply the tenets of reason and logic, to think critically for ourselves, has created the morass in which we live. If our government is rife with corruption, waste, and graft, it is because we did not apply critical thought to those we chose to govern. If we feel compelled to buy the “next great thing,” even though the one we have is sufficient for our needs, it is because we have ceded rationality to the forces of impulse. If we are heavily in debt, both at home and in government, it is because we could not see the simple premise that it is wrong to spend money you do not have or cannot earn. If we claim ourselves a moral people, even as we allow people to go hungry or homeless, it is because we have picked and chosen those parts of morality that suit us, and discarded the rest. The evidence is clear: by avoiding engagement in the affairs of life, we have allowed those who will engage to take the field, without any systematic checks and balances, allowing them to run roughshod over us. Ceding control to others because we cannot be bothered to maintain it ourselves, and refusing to do anything about it even when the evidence is clear, is our failing.

We must stop accepting everything those in authority say at face value. Like a scientist, we must be willing to accept that an assertion is wrong, even though it would appear to fit the facts. We must apply critical tests to everything others would have us believe, until we are sure what sources we can trust, and what sources we cannot. Only then, can we reassert ourselves, and take back control of what was always rightfully ours: government. There is no reason to believe those who would lie to their benefit will suddenly have an epiphany one day and give up the practice, for once one has trod the path of untruth, one rarely finds their way back unaided. It is only through perseverance in this, that we shall once more separate the wheat from the chaff, and bring our society back the decency it so desperately needs right now.

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